The First Things Your Small Business Should Do After a Hurricane

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What to Do After a Hurricane - Small Business

Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25, resulting in what’s likely the worst disaster Texas has ever experienced. Officials estimate the recovery will take years, and small-business owners in southeastern Texas face many challenges to rebuilding, even if they had a solid emergency plan.

The Small Business Administration will release a list of local resource partners who can help business owners as soon as the agency can confirm that the partners — many of whom were also evacuated — are up and running, Mark Randle, lead public information officer for the SBA, said Tuesday. The resources will be available Hurricane Harvey, along with information regarding the SBA disaster loan program.

What to Do After a Hurricane

In the meantime, you can take some steps to start the recovery process.

1. Call Your Insurance Agent

Contact your insurance agent as soon as you can. The Insurance Information Institute has a step-by-step guide to help you prepare for the claims process and the adjuster’s visit. Have your policy number handy when you call, along with backup contact information so your insurer can get ahold of you as quickly as possible during the process. It’s essential you file an insurance claim to document that a disaster occurred.

2. Organize Your Records

Gather and organize your business records, which will be helpful when dealing with your insurance agent or applying for disaster relief funding. If your records were destroyed, there are ways to reconstruct them. Don’t access your business until it’s safe to do so, even though this may go against all of your entrepreneurial instincts.

Focus on:

  • Invoices dating back at least a year
  • Bank statements that can be used to track deposits and determine sales revenue
  • Last year’s federal and state tax returns
  • Purchase agreement, if you purchased your business from a broker
  • Business contracts
  • Budgets

3. Research Recovery Financing

The SBA’s disaster loan program provides low-interest loans to businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters.

As a business, you may apply for up to $2 million in assistance, which will be made up of a business physical disaster loan that covers real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment, an economic injury disaster loan to cover working capital needs, or a combination.

According to Randle, the SBA tries to make a decision on each application within two to three weeks. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, so submit yours as soon as you can.

Online alternative lenders might offer faster financing, but they’ll likely charge higher annual percentage rates than what you’d receive with the help of the SBA.

4. Watch Out for Scams

Natural disasters often bring out the best in people — but they can also bring out the worst.

“It’s a time when there’s a lot of help available — volunteers, faith-based groups — so you can kind of get in that mode where everyone is just good and helping,” Randle says. “But unfortunately, there’s a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Randle advises asking for identification and doing your due diligence before working with contractors, business financial lenders or anyone offering assistance. All SBA employees have official photo IDs and do not charge for any services regarding the disaster assistance program.

Randle also suggests considering local businesses that were serving your area before the disaster to avoid possible scams.

FEMA and local authorities will also release scam alerts as they learn about them.

FEMA Photo via Shutterstock

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